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Inward Investment

Volume 264: debated on Wednesday 18 October 1995

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To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will give the sums of money paid to inward investors in (a) Strathclyde and (b) Scotland as a whole by way of (i) regional selective assistance grant, (ii) regional enterprise grants and (iii) grants from Scottish Enterprise in the past three years. [36035]

In the three years to March 1995, payments of regional selective assistance to overseas-owned companies in Scotland totalled £112.5 million, of which £57.5 million related to projects in Strathclyde. Figures for other grants are not available.

That is a tidy sum. With the honourable exception of a tiny handful of recipient companies, such as IBM and National Semiconductor, few of those companies set up research and development facilities. Why does the Scottish Office allow them to avoid such a responsibility? Should it not be a condition of such grants that those incoming companies must create research and development facilities?

The hon. Gentleman is right. We want to encourage research and development facilities to come to Scotland. On my two most recent trips abroad to promote inward investment as well as exports, we have specifically tried to encourage research and development to come to Scotland. Several organisations may be considering Scotland in the future and we shall continue with our efforts. If we can get research and development, a lot follows on thereafter.

Despite the free market rhetoric we are all pleased that the Minister has been following a rather interventionist course when it comes to encouraging inward investment—presumably that is part of the package of the new user-friendly Scottish Secretary of State. Nevertheless, does he recall that we have unfortunately lost one or two rather large projects in the past? Can he give us an assurance that lessons have been learnt from that and that whenever there is a possibility of attracting substantial inward investment that involves regional selective assistance it is monitored closely?

The hon. Gentleman is aware that Locate in Scotland as well as the partnerships that exist throughout Scotland between it and local enterprise companies and local authorities demonstrate that attempts to bring inward investment to Scotland are second to none. We work extremely hard to try to succeed in every case, but we are up against increasing competition and sadly one cannot win them all. With particular reference to the hon. Gentleman's area he will be aware that we have been involved in several significant potential inward investment projects, some of which I hope will come to fruition in the not too distant future.